20 Most Surprising Things to Happen in the January Transfer Window

By (Featured Columnist) on February 4, 2014

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Sang Tan/Associated Press

The January transfer window only contained a couple of mega deals, but there were still plenty of surprises to get chins wagging.

Manchester United struck early with the stunning acquisition of Juan Mata from rivals Chelsea, but they then stayed quiet for the rest of the month.

And there were other major clubs in Europe who did little or nothing, which is a surprise in itself.

Some of the biggest shocks involved players and teams that just did not seem to go naturally together, while others saw a big risk taken by one party or the other.

As always, this ranking is somewhat subjective. Let it be known in the comments what you think the biggest surprises were.

20. Philippe Senderos to Valencia

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Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

Though this transfer makes sense on many levels, not many saw Philippe Senderos' move to Valencia coming. 

As Tom Conn reports on insidespanishfootball.com, the Spanish club made the big center-back an offer he couldn't refuse:

In his first press conference with the media, Senderos explained the move, which caught many by surprise and feels it’s a great opportunity for his career.

"They told me about the interest from Valencia really late on. I was just completely focused on working with Fulham.

"However, I think that this is a great opportunity for me and that is why I accepted it. I really want to play in La Liga and playing for Valencia is a great challenge for me."

 

19. Shinji Kagawa to Stay Put at Manchester United

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Jon Super/Associated Press

During his time at Borussia Dortmund, Shinji Kagawa showed himself to be a playmaker of massive potential.

Since moving to Manchester United at the beginning of last season, however, the Japanese star has failed to live up to expectations.

Whether that's because he has been unable to adapt to the English game or Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes have not utilized his talents correctly remains open to debate, but the fact is his career has stalled somewhat.

If Kagawa had been thinking of a return to Dortmund, or a move to another club where he could have a more influential role, the arrival of Juan Mata, a player who occupies a similar position, at United, must have made it even more tempting to jump ship.

The 24-year-old has elected to stay on, though, and try to establish himself as a starting midfielder for the Red Devils. 

Sometimes taking no action is a gamble in itself. It should become apparent over the rest of the season whether Kagawa has made the right choice.

 

 

18. Jose Sosa to Atletico Madrid

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Michael Probst/Associated Press

It might not always be clear to fans what Jose Sosa actually does, but he nonetheless seems to make a good impression on many of his managers.

The versatile attacking midfielder was regularly called up by Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella at the start of his tenure, much to the bemusement of many pundits and Albiceleste supporters.

Now another of Sosa's old Estudiantes bosses, Diego Simeone, has called him over to Spanish title contenders Atletico Madrid on a six-month loan from Ukrainian club Metalist Kharkiv.

Will the 28-year-old prove useful in the race for the La Liga crown, or is Simeone clutching at straws? 

Only time will tell.

17. Ruben Botta to Inter

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Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Despite showing oodles of talent from a young age, Ruben Botta's career took longer than many expected to really get humming.

He spent four years at Tigre before finally making the jump to Europe when Inter bought him at the start of 2013-14.

Even though he was immediately loaned to Livorno, where he did not play a game, he has now been secured by the Milan giants on a permanent basis. 

After a stuttering start, Botta now appears to be on the move.

16. Konstantinos Mitroglou to Fulham

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Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

It's January and Fulham are bottom of the Premier League table.

They have to try something to turn their season around, and they have thus splashed out a club record transfer fee to sign Greek striker Konstantinos Mitroglou.

Laura Williamson of the Daily Mail explains the deal:

Fulham bolstered their fight for Barclays Premier League survival by spending a club record £12.4million on Greece striker Konstantinos Mitroglou as Dimitar Berbatov swapped west London for Monaco.

On a dramatic deadline day for Rene Meulensteen’s side, currently second from bottom and two points clear of safety, Mitroglou shunned Fulham’s relegation rivals West Ham to sign a four-and-a-half-year deal at Craven Cottage, while Tottenham midfielder Lewis Holtby joined on loan until the end of the season.

The club also secured a late deal to sign Everton defender Johnny Heitinga.

The forward has been in fine form for Olympiacos, but this move still represents a considerable risk for a club of Fulham's modest means.

If the gamble pays off, however, and Mitroglou begins banging in the goals, their chances of remaining in the top flight for another season will increase considerably. 

15. Besart Berisha to Melbourne Victory

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Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

In terms of shock value, nothing in Europe or South America quite matched the announcement of Albanian striker Besart Berisha's end-of-season transfer from Brisbane Roar to Melbourne Victory in Australia's A-League.

Berisha, who with 44 goals in two-and-a-half seasons is widely regarded as the best striker in the league, has become a cult hero at the Roar and it was generally assumed that if he ever left the club, his destination would be overseas.

In fact, Brisbane coach Mike Mulvey said the following of Berisha back in November, as reported by David Davutovic on foxsports.com.au:

"He couldn't play for anyone else in the A-League. He's got orange blood."

It turns out he could, and will, from the start of next season, much to the dismay of Roar fans.

14. Valmir Berisha to Roma

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Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

Another Berisha, Valmir (no relation), moved from Halmstad to Roma.

The 17-year-old Swede is an exciting prospect and, according to his own accounts, he ignored interest from a number of clubs across Europe to join the Giallorossi.

The teen explained his decision to sign for Roma to solocalcio.se instead of one of the other prestigious clubs who were chasing him, as reported by Matthew Scott of Goal.com:

I'm feeling good about [joining Roma]. I've always wanted to play in Italy.

Teams wanted me in England and in Germany, and I had a contract from Dortmund in my hands, but I ignored it and signed for Roma the next day.

Other than Roma and Dortmund, there was also Sunderland, Hammarby, Werder Bremen and Juventus.

Sevilla offered me a contract straight after the World Cup and Ajax also got in contact.

Even so, I wanted Italy. I love the weather and the language, and I've always had an Italian style of play.

The plan is to start me off with the Primavera (youth team), let me adapt and then play me in the first team as soon as I'm ready.

13. Ignacio Scocco to Sunderland

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Daniel Jayo/Associated Press

Linked with Sunderland for quite some time, it was not a huge surprise that Argentine attacker Ignacio Scocco finally joined the club.

The timing is a little strange from Sunderland's perspective, though, as Scocco is now 28 years old and is not coming off the best of seasons for Brazilian club Internacional, where he scored just three goals.

Black Cats supporters will be hoping the dynamic forward can return to the kind of form he showed for Newell's Old Boys in 2012-13, when he bagged 30 goals in all competitions and at times looked unstoppable. 

12. Pablo Armero to West Ham

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Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

The signing of Colombian left-back Pablo Armero on loan until the end of the season by West Ham manager Sam Allardyce looks a very savvy bit of business.

Armero made 18 appearances for Napoli this season, has an impressive 49 caps for his national side and, at 27, should be at the peak of his game.

Nice work, then, from "Big Sam" to convince the speedster to swap the third-placed team in Italy for the 18th-placed team in England.

11. Ever Banega to Newell's Old Boys

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Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

It is not common for highly rated Argentine players to return to their homeland until their careers have begun to wind down, which makes 25-year-old Ever Banega's loan move from Valencia to Newell's Old Boys something of a bombshell.

When you consider that Premier League clubs Manchester United and Sunderland were reportedly interested in the classy midfielder, per Sky Sports, it is even more surprising.

There is a simple explanation, though. Banega is a lifelong Newell's fanatic, and jumped at the chance to play for the club of his dreams.

10. Liverpool's Lack of Signings

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Apichart Weerawong/Associated Press

Liverpool are currently sitting in fourth place in the Premier League table, with Tottenham and city rivals Everton pushing up behind them.

A couple of reinforcements during the January transfer window would have been quite useful, then, but it wasn't to be for Brendan Rogers' side.

The Reds were particularly keen on signing Yevhen Konoplyanka from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk and Mohamed Salah from Basel but in the end neither deal went through.

Rogers was fairly tight-lipped about his lack of success in the transfer window. He told Sky Sports:

Whatever frustrations I have I would never let you know.

This is a club I want to keep together for the longer term and will never be broken by stuff written in the papers.

If I have an issue or a problem I don't need to ring up journalists and give them snippets out there, if I have an issue I'll speak with the owner.

I said it would've been nice to have got some reinforcements in but that wasn't to be the case and so yesterday has no consequence now.

I've got to work with the players I have here. We have 14 games to go, we are still in a great position and the squad is very focused on our objectives so I can't afford to think about what we could or couldn't have done.

9. Diego Forlan to Cerezo Osaka

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Martin Mejia/Associated Press

The Golden Ball winner from World Cup 2010 is set to add some flair to Japan's J-League after he agreed to join Cerezo Osaka from Internacional in January.

Uruguayan legend Diego Forlan is the first big name to join the Japanese league in quite some time, explains the Herald Sun, and he will be substantially compensated for his adventurousness:

Cerezo Osaka, where Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa cut his teeth, will pay Forlan an estimated annual wage of 600 million yen ($5.8 million), according to media reports.

That will break the previous J-League record of 300 million yen paid to former England striker Gary Lineker when he joined Nagoya Grampus in 1993, the J-League's inaugural year.

In the league's early years, its clubs spent lavishly to recruit the likes of Lineker, Zico and Pierre Littbarski.

But with limited attendance and unspectacular TV money, the league has had to manage without big names on its team sheets.

In 2013, Brazilian-Japanese defender Marcus Tulio Tanaka of Nagoya Grampus was the best paid J-League player with an annual wage of 160 million yen, according to local media.

Forlan will be the first big name in a long while to play in the J-League and his arrival is likely to liven up a national game that has seen many of its top talents decamp to Europe.

8. The Kim Kallstrom Affair

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Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

After failing to land German hotshot Julian Draxler, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal had to make do with the arrival of Kim Kallstrom, on loan from Spartak Moscow.

Shortly after the Swede arrived in London, however, it was revealed he had a microfracture in his back and would be unable to play for about six weeks.

The French coach admitted he almost pulled out of the deal, but Spartak's willingness to pay his wages until he is ready to play again, along with time constraints, convinced him to go proceed anyway.

Wenger explained his thought process to Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph:

It crossed my mind not to complete the deal.

I would not have signed him if we’d had two or three more days to do something.

It was 5 p.m. GMT, so sign him or nobody. We had to sign him in these conditions. We might need the players in March or April.

We think it will be four to six weeks out.

7. Ji Dong-Won to Augsburg/Dortmund

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Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Fringe Sunderland player Ji Dong-Won must have impressed somebody at Borussia Dortmund in one of his 24 appearances for the English club, as the Champions League finalists snapped him up in one of the more curious moves of the transfer window.

The German club will sign the South Korean at the end of the current season after he completes a spell at Augsburg, whom he signed for just a day before the announcement that he will be joining Jurgen Klopp and Co.

The 22-year-old forward only scored two goals in three years at Sunderland, but that was enough to convince Dortmund to sign him up.

 

6. Jermain Defoe to Toronto

Leaving his beloved Tottenham can't have been easy, but Jermain Defoe switched to Major League Soccer club Toronto FC with the aim of earning more first team football with an eye on the World Cup in June and July.

He will be available to play for the Reds from February 28.

The move has caused quite a stir.

5. No Signings for Barcelona or Real Madrid

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Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Spanish mega-clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona are normally not afraid to flash the cash on the transfer market but both remained remarkably subdued this time around. 

According to Transfermarkt, neither completed a single bit of business in the winter window.

With Atletico Madrid now three points clear at the top of the La Liga table, perhaps both are a now a little nervous about their inactivity.

4. Hernanes to Inter

The one image that will likely stick longest in the memory from this transfer window is the sight of midfielder Hernanes in tears after it was confirmed he would be on his way to Inter from Lazio.

The Brazilian had played 156 times for Lazio, and he obviously developed a deep affection for the Roman club but modern football sometimes leaves little room for an individual's emotions. 

3. Dimitar Berbatov to Monaco

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Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

The EPL has lost one of its great characters with the news that Dimitar Berbatov has moved from Fulham to Monaco.

The former Bayer Leverkusen, Tottenham and Manchester United forward will serve as a replacement for injured striker Radamel Falcao at the principality club, bringing an end to a seven-year spell in English football.

Even fans of rival Premier League clubs may be sad to see the mercurial Bulgarian striker pack his bags.

2. Adel Taarabt to Milan

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Scott Heppell/Associated Press

Gifted Moroccan Adel Taarabt may have been on the outer at Fulham (where he was being loaned by QPR), but the midfielder's career has been given a new lease of life with a loan move to Milan.

First-time Milan coach Clarence Seedorf will have to first make sure Taarabt is happy and focused in order to get the best out of him, after he has shown only intermittent patches of form in the EPL over the past couple of seasons.

This could be the 24-year-old's big break. It is certainly a setting in which he will have no excuses if he fails to fulfill his rich talent.

1. Juan Mata to Manchester United

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Jon Super/Associated Press

At just under £40 million, per Transfermarkt, it was the biggest transfer of the January window, but also one of the most surprising.

It was well-known that Jose Mourinho was having trouble finding a place for Juan Mata in his Chelsea starting XI but as the club's best player over the past two seasons, few would have expected him to jettison the Spaniard so quickly.

The fact that Mata was sold to Manchester United could indicate that Mourinho either doesn't rate the player that highly at all, or he has written off the Red Devils as an immediate threat.

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